The role of civil society in the development of standards around new weapons and other technologies of warfare

This article considers the role of civil society in the development of new standards around weapons. The broad but informal roles that civil society has undertaken are contrasted with the relatively narrow review mechanisms adopted by states in fulfillment of their legal obligations. Such review mechanisms are also considered in the context of wider thinking about processes by which society considers new technologies that may be adopted into the public sphere. The article concludes that formalized review mechanisms, such as those undertaken in terms of Article 36 of Additional Protocol I (1977) of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, should be a focus of civil society attention in their own right as part of efforts to strengthen standard setting in relation to emerging military technologies.

Keywords: weapon review, Article 36, civil society, new technology.

About the authors

Brian Rappert

Brian Rappert is a Professor of Science, Technology and Public Affairs in the Department of Sociology and Philosophy at the University of Exeter. His latest book, How to Look Good in a War,* examines how secrecy and transparency, as well as knowledge and ignorance, mix and meld together in the practice of statecraft.

Anna Crowe

Anna Crowe recently completed her Master of Laws at Harvard Law School. She previously worked as a New Zealand government lawyer and prior to that as a clerk to the Chief Justice of New Zealand.

Richard Moyes
Managing Partner

Richard Moyes is Managing Partner of the UK non-governmental organization Article 36 and is an Honorary University Fellow at the University of Exeter.

Thomas Nash

Thomas Nash is Director of the UK non-governmental organization Article 36. He coordinated the Cluster Munition Coalition, the international campaign that led to the 2008 treaty banning cluster munitions.